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Awe, Love and Audacity - Thoughts on Teshuva

At times, I find that there is something frustrating about the process of the Days of Awe, the Yamim Noraim. Here we go again, attempting to confess our sins and repent, convincing ourselves that we'll never do it again. For most of us, the incremental dulling of our senses is far more the issue than any one-off dramatic sinful act.

Standing before God as is - with all of one's imperfections - is embarrassing and liberating at the same time. It is a form of intimacy that acknowledges our inadequacy. Perhaps Leonard Cohen best depicts this eternal grappling in his song “If it be your will.” We try to sing from our "broken hill" and sometimes our voices must be "still". But this harrowing sense of awe and love also results in audacity. Beyond my “still voice” or “broken hill,” a cri de coeur from within, a dream of what could be, demands of God that He let His “mercy spill/On all these burning hearts”.

The prophet Jeremiah reflects the complexity of repentance/teshuvah, כי אחרי שובי נחמתי -"for after I returned, I repented…"[Jeremiah 31, 18]. Why the double act? Anyone who meets a loved one after an extended period of absence knows that there is something about the meeting that makes you realize just how much you missed them. You become different, as if only now do you fully realize just how much you enjoy being with that person. This encounter opens the doorway for an additional level of experience and longing - that you were unaware of a moment before meeting.

The Talmud states that three books are opened on Rosh Hashanah: one for the righteous, one for the wicked and one for everyone else. The Hassidic masters explain that this is an opportunity, offering each one of us the option of inscription in whichever book we choose. If we are mindful, instead of being a petty petitioner with a long list of sins, the Yamim Noraim can be seen as a gift. The Days of Awe offer us the opportunity of encounter and longing, to be God's instrument upon which our song "rings out".

Wishing all of you a sweet New Year שנה טובה ומתוקה K’tiva V’Hatima Tova Rabbi Chananel Rosen

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